Curriculum-Based Theater and Self-Reported Empathy

Samantha D Raimondi, Fordham University


In the past decade, advocacy for theater arts programs in schools has increased. New research suggests that the application of theater arts in conjunction with academics provides many social-emotional benefits for students, including increases in empathy. Although there appears to be a strong link between theater and empathy, many previous experiments have focused their research on the experimental implementation of short-term programs or after school activities. In fact, few studies have explored the effects of theater education classes as part of an already existing curriculum. This mixed methods study investigated the relationship between levels of self-reported empathy and experience in a curriculum-based high school theater program. Specifically, differing degrees of affective and cognitive empathy were measured in students who have been exposed to a multi-year high school theater program versus peers with no theater experience. The study consisted of 75 students enrolled in a rural high school that offered a multi-year curriculum-based theater program. Results of this study indicated that high school students enrolled in the theater program displayed significantly higher levels of self-reported affective empathy across groups. However, no difference in cognitive empathy was found. Additionally, qualitative interviews implied that there is a unanimously positive attitude toward employing theater arts in the high school curriculum. Future implications for further research and practice are discussed.

Subject Area

Art education|Theater|Educational psychology|Personality psychology

Recommended Citation

Raimondi, Samantha D, "Curriculum-Based Theater and Self-Reported Empathy" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10280905.